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in HortTechnology

Nich Committees Promote Consumer Horticulture

Dorn et al. (p. 414) report that committees of the National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture (NICH) are hard at work. #PlantsDoThat infographics have been created and widely used. A literature review of the community and health benefits of consumer horticulture has revealed a need for more research about the benefits of the personal act of gardening that could inform marketing endeavors. Plans have been created to develop an online educational tool illustrating the environmental benefits of consumer horticulture.

Indoor Production of High-quality Strawberry Transplants

Seed-propagated strawberry varieties are expected to permit year-round greenhouse production. Tsuruyama and Shibuya (p. 453) investigated growth properties and flowering response of long-day varieties (Elan and Yotsuboshi) grown under LEDs or sunlight to support the development of indoor production of strawberry transplants. Seedling growth was greater with the 16- and 24-h LED photoperiods than with sunlight, even at the same daily light integral. Flower buds initiation of the seedlings grown under longer LED photoperiods was earlier in ‘Elan’, but not in ‘Yotsuboshi’. Thus, indoor production can provide high-quality transplants, although the effectiveness is variety-specific.

Perfomance of Grafted Watermelon in Fumigated Plasticulture

Watermelon grafting commonly is used to protect watermelon from damaging soilborne pathogens. However, yield benefits have been reported, even in the absence of disease. To evaluate the utility of grafting for mid-Atlantic U.S. watermelon growers, Bertucci et al. (p. 459) conducted a 2-year field trial in a fumigated plasticulture system, grafting two watermelon types (standard and mini-watermelon) to 20 commercially available cucurbit rootstocks. They observed no yield benefits and only minimal fruit quality improvement as a result of grafting. They suggest that grafting of watermelon should be considered only in situations where problems with soilborne pathogens are anticipated.

Phosphonate Damage to ‘Nadorcott’ Mandarin Fruit

Phosphonate foliar applications in the period prior to harvest are routinely used in citrus production for the control of phytophthora brown rot. However, in South Africa, several grower reports indicated that these applications caused phytotoxic damage on ‘Nadorcott’ mandarin fruit. In a 2-year study, van Niekerk et al. (p. 470) found that regardless of the type of phosphonate or dosage applied, phytotoxic damage was observed at harvest if foliar applications were conducted at color break or full color stage of fruit development. The same results were observed in the different climatic areas where the study was conducted.

Chitosan Enhances Lettuce Growth and Photosynthesis

There is interest in the use of chitosan as a crop biostimulant in sustainable agriculture, since it is biocompatible, biodegradable, environmentally friendly, and readily available in large quantity. In a growth chamber study, Xu and Mou (p. 476) found that chitosan applied as a soil amendment at appropriate rates, increased lettuce leaf area, fresh and dry weight, and chlorophyll index. Chitosan at high application rates also increased leaf maximum photochemical efficiency, photochemical yield, and photosynthesis rate. They report that chitosan enhanced lettuce growth and might have potential to be utilized for sustainable production.

Initial Storage at 33 °F Reduces Disorders in ‘Honeycrisp’ Apples

‘Honeycrisp’ apples are susceptible to low temperature disorders such as soft scald and soggy breakdown, and disorders such as bitter pit that are exacerbated by warmer storage temperatures. Al Shoffe and Watkins (p. 481) found that short-term storage (1 to 4 weeks) at 33 °F followed by storage at 38 °F reduced soft scald and soggy breakdown. Also, bitter pit incidence was lowered compared with that in fruit that had been conditioned at 50 °F. Temperature manipulation of fruit during storage may help control disorders while maintaining fruit quality.

Compost Mulch Improves Growth of Fall Lettuce

Many vegetable growers apply compost annually in high tunnels, and lettuce is a popular fall/winter tunnel crop in Rhode Island. Gheshm and Brown (p. 485) found that leaving compost on the surface as a mulch when growing romaine lettuce from transplants reduced weed growth and increased lettuce growth relative to unmulched plots. Increased lettuce growth was associated with significantly reduced soil cooling (resulting in warmer soil) in mulched plots as air temperatures decreased in November and December.

Fumigants Used for Springtail Disinfestation of Celery

Ahmed et al. (p. 492) studied quarantine treatments to facilitate export of celery to world markets that enforce quarantines against springtails. The fumigants ethyl formate, phosphine, and their mixture were evaluated on naturally infested celery in laboratory fumigation chambers. They report that different concentrations of ethyl formate and ethyl formate + phosphine were effective, with high mortality of purple scum springtails; however, there was some phytotoxicity. Phosphine treatment at 2.5 ppm for 6 hours caused high mortality without phytotoxicity symptoms.

Flaming for Weed Control in Organic Garlic

New efficient methods for weed control are needed for organic farmers. The effects of introducing flaming into a mechanical weed control strategy for organic garlic production were investigated by Abou Chehade et al. (p. 502). They found that one flaming at the three to four-leaf stage with liquefied petroleum gas at a dose as low as 16 kg·ha-1 (14.3 lb/acre) was sufficient to control weeds and maintain yields of the highest marketable grade garlic bulbs similar to hand-weeding. Flaming ensured also higher garlic yields than the weedy control.

Autonomous Mower for High-quality Sports Turf

High-quality sports turf often involves hard-to-mow warm-season turfgrasses that require low mowing and frequent maintenance. Autonomous mowers are not designed to mow lower than 2.0 cm. Pirchio et al. (p. 509) modified an ordinary autonomous mower to create a prototype autonomous mower cutting at a low height. The prototype was tested on manila grass turf and compared with an ordinary autonomous mower and with a gasoline reel mower. They found that autonomous mowers can perform low mowing even on tough-to-mow turfgrass species.

Amazon and the E-Commerce Plant Marketplace

As online sales continue to grow for many product categories, horticultural businesses must consider how to adapt to changes in the marketplace. For retail-quality ornamental plants, it can be difficult to meet today’s consumer expectations, such as free 2-day delivery of undamaged plants regardless of season or geography. Baker et al. (p. 516) conducted a quantitative content analysis study to evaluate the status and quality of e-commerce for 498 horticultural businesses across the U.S. They found few businesses selling live plants online, whether on their own website or via Amazon.com, leaving opportunities for growth.

Northern Grapes Project Webinars Provide Valuable Outreach

Webinars have become an important aspect of extension outreach programs, especially for large research projects that cover wide geographic regions. The Northern Grapes Project (NGP) administered a webinar series on topics related to grape and wine production from 2012 through 2016. Particka et al. (p. 524) found that the webinars generated a total value estimated at nearly $3.4 million. Further economic impact studies of the wine grape industry within the states of the NGP showed a 34% increase in economic output over the course of the project via increased employment and economic growth of the industry.

Horticulture Employee Knowledge about Pollinator Conservation

The decline of pollinating insects can be attributed to reduced floral resources and habitat. Homeowners can alleviate these declines through targeted landscaping practices and proper plant selection. Westerhold et al. (p. 529) distributed a survey to employees of horticultural businesses to assess their knowledge about pollinator conservation and determine what plant and landscape management practices were being recommended to consumers. Plant selection knowledge was the lowest among the domains surveyed. Several opportunities for educational outreach, aimed at improving employee and customer knowledge on this important subject are identified.

Extension Information Delivered via Various Group Formats

It is important for extension personnel to be able to effectively distribute pertinent information to constituents. Campbell et al. (p. 536) examined how school ground managers’ knowledge gain was affected by presentation formats. Participants were broken into either large groups (approximately 50 participants at a turfgrass field day) or small groups (6-10 participants at an interactive workshop) and presented with information about pesticide-free management of athletic fields. Upon competition of the programs, participants took surveys to gauge knowledge retention. Overall large-group participants had greater knowledge retention than small-group participants.

Active Learning Influences Knowledge/Attitudes about Invasives

Invasive species are a global problem linked to a lack of knowledge and education. The general public is not aware of the problems invasives present to environments and ecosystems, and may actually impede management efforts due to a lack of understanding of their impact. Waliczek et al. (p. 548) discovered that teaching college students about invasive species using lecture-only versus lecture and laboratory approaches influenced not only their knowledge of invasive species, but also their attitudes towards what they felt were acceptable means of management. No changes were observed in the control group students.

Ornamental Jujube Variety Evaluation in New Mexico

Jujube trees can be used for fruit production and in landscaping. Yao and Heyduck (p. 557) examined four ornamental jujube varieties that are decorative with unique tree or fruit shapes making them suitable as landscape trees that bear edible fruit. The varieties Dragon, Mushroom, So, and Teapot were evaluated for growth, flowering, and fruiting habits and assessed for their potential in the landscape. ‘So’ and ‘Dragon’ have unique tree shapes while ‘Mushroom’ and ‘Teapot’ have distinct fruit shapes. With decorative/nutritious fruit, foliage, and unique tree shapes, these varieties can be three- or four-season ornamentals.

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